Monday, May 30, 2011

Cliffsnotes On Curry And The UConn Health Center

Bill Curry, who twice ran for office as governor, has written for the Hartford Courant an op-ed titled “Reinvented UConn Health Center Is A Plan To Build Our Future On.” The Curry effusion appeared in the paper’s Sunday edition just before the politically rumbustious long holiday weekend.

Because Mr. Curry's prose tends to be both dense and sprightly at the same time, it occurs to me that the student of his set pieces might profit by the equivalent of political Cliffsnotes, and I have supplied some here at the risk of turning Mr. Curry’s poetic performance into stiff analytical prose. Mr. Curry has not been quite as active on the political scene in Connecticut as, say, Mr. Malloy – who, only months into his gubernatorial reign, threatens to approach former Attorney General Richard (now Dick) Blumenthal in ubiquity -- and the notes may be necessary.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Government Without Firewalls

Both Republican governors John Rowland and Jodi Rell used to refer to themselves as “firewalls,” usually after they had compromised with Democratic leaders in the General Assembly to pass budgets that present Governor Dannel Malloy has often characterized as bags of tricks and treats. Mr. Malloy has insisted that his budget, still being hammered out by his agents and representatives of unions, is, on the other hand, transparent and honest-- a good thing. No tricks or treats there. No smoke, no mirrors, the sort of budget one might expect from a governor wearing a white hat who is not the plaything of special interests.

The firewall disappeared altogether after Mr. Malloy became governor. The Rell-Rowland firewall was not fireproof. Had it been so, Connecticut’s bottom budget line could not have tripled within the space of three governors, and the state would not now rank first in the nation in per capita debt. It would not be losing jobs to New Jersey and New York and Massachusetts. And, of course, Mr. Malloy would not have been faced, coming into office, with a budget deficit larger than that accosting Maverick Governor Lowell Weicker in 1991, which deficit Mr. Weicker resolved by instituting his income tax.

During his campaign for governor, Mr. Weicker used a fiery metaphor to signal to voters that he would not institute an income tax should they elect him governor – because an income tax would be like pouring gas on a fire. And we all know what happens when gas is poured on a fire.

Poof! Allow Democrats in the General Assembly to run an income tax pipeline into the wallets of Connecticut’s long suffering taxpayers and, before you can cry fire in the crowded theatre, the roof of state government will be aflame with extravagant spending. Such was Mr. Weicker dire electioneering warning. And, as it turns out, he was right.

Then came the firewall governors who were not firewalls, the budget compromises between Republican governors and dominant Democrats in the General Assembly and, finally, Mr. Malloy, riding a white horse and calling for “shared sacrifice.”

In the age of YouTube, it has been possible for the Republican resistance in the General Assembly to post a string of embarrassing claims made by Mr. Malloy in the heat of a primary and general election campaign that rivals claims made by Mr. Weicker in that long ago campaign when budget deficits were about one third of what they are presently in the age of Connecticut’s new one party state.

Taxes in the Malloy budget have been raised $1.8 billion, so far. There were no negotiations between Mr. Malloy and taxpayers before Mr. Malloy demanded a “shared sacrifice” of them; though Mr. Malloy was kind enough to present to them his non-negotiable demands at no fewer than 17 Town Hall meetings. And now, Mr. Malloy, striving to tuck the budget to bed before the legislative clock runs out, but finding himself yet in negotiations with unions months after agents of Mr. Malloy first sat down at the table with union hard bargainers, has announced, on a holiday weekend, that $320 million of the nearly $1 billion surplus Mr. Malloy and Democratic leaders had smuggled into their budget, ostensibly to refill the state’s depleted rainy day fund, will be shared with -- unions, reducing the “shared sacrifice” of those who were largely responsible for his re-election.

Naturally, Republicans in the General Assembly, who played no part in Mr. Malloy non-negotiable Plan A, protested somewhat heatedly. Republican House leader Larry Cafero stormed, "The Friday night dump. Is that what it's called? This is the dump of all dumps. Friday night, holiday weekend. ... He [Mr. Malloy] drops the $400 million backfill plan… He uses $320 million of the surplus to make up $400 million in cuts -- $320 million! Classic Malloy. He says one thing, he does the other. Says one thing, does the other.”

And Republicans can be expected to crank out more YouTube clips that might possibly be of use in future campaigns against Democratic legislators – because the Republican Party, which was not permitted to invest in Mr. Malloy’s budget, is not, partly owing to role of agitator and chief Democratic Party scold played by outgoing party chairman Chris Healy, the sleepy, go-along-to-get-along party of yesteryear forced to make do with Democratic budgets winked at by Republican governors.

By any measure of sound economic health Democrats may point to, Connecticut, attached to a breathing tube, is lying stretched out on a gurney in the ER. State Democrats seems to be following the template set by President Barack Obama, Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate President Harry Read at a time when Democrats enjoyed a veto proof majority in the congress: Never let a crisis go to waste without punishing your political enemies and rewarding your friends.

However, given the condition of the patient, state Democrats likely will have a heck of a time explaining to relatives of the stricken state why they are busying themselves passing budgets and laws that punish entrepreneurial capital, pander to unions, and pad with a surplus a state debt three times larger than the last $7.5 billion pre-income tax budget of former Democratic Governor William O’Neill.

While the state, now lacking any firewall, crumbles in flames, its inmates are forcing through the Democratic dominated legislature hastily written, defective bills abolishing the death penalty, facilitating transgenderism, larding with hidden taxes bills paid by energy consumers, arranging yet another muli-million dollar bail-out of the tax draining UConn Health Center, and collecting surplus money from hard pressed businesses and taxpayers to relieve unions of a good portion the “shared sacrifice” Mr. Malloy once sternly demanded of them, all of it making a queer sort of suicidal sense.

The great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said that given the choice of immediate execution or of being slowly trampled to death by geese, he would prefer a quick finish. The people of Connecticut soon will be faced with the same choice.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How Sick Is Connecticut ?

The slow destruction of the state of Connecticut continues apace with the passage through the Senate on Wednesday of the Paid Sick Leave bill. Now on its way to the Democratic dominated House, the bill slipped through by a single vote, Republicans opposed and Democrats in favor, with some notable exceptions: Republican John Kissel of Enfield voted in favor of the bill, while five Democrats -- Sens. Gayle Slossberg of Milford, Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, Bob Duff of Norwalk, Joan Hartley of Waterbury and Andrew Maynard of Stonington — voted no.

"It is an imperfect bill,” Mr. Kissel said.” What we're about here is trying to pass legislation that has broad enough support to bring people together.''

The Paid Sick Leave bill now proceeds to the House, where passage is expected, and thereafter will be passed into law after having been signed by Governor Dannel Malloy, who lobbied wobbly senators in favor of the bill.

The bill featured prominently in Mr. Malloy’s gubernatorial primary campaign against Ned Lamont. Mr. Malloy, who owes his election to votes generated by unions in three Connecticut’s cities, argued in favor of the bill, while Mr. Lamont, a Greenwich millionaire businessman, did not look with favor upon it.

Mr. Kissel is certain to receive some good natured ribbing from his Republican comrades, especially since the bill, almost universally opposed by Republicans leery of signing on to measures that whip business out of Connecticut into the prehensile grasp of such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, passed the Senate by a single vote. The senator’s vote is not likely to be warmly received by his constituents when he comes up for re-election.

Sen. Joe Markley characterized the bill as another example of "the march of regulation in this state, of rules, of laws, of entitlements, of things which tell us how to live our lives."

Jon Green, Executive Director of the Working Families Party, a pro labor group parading as a party that has gratefully deliver votes to pro-union Democrats, including Mr. Malloy, rejoiced over the passage of the bill.

“It's a proud day for the state,” said Mr. Green. “At the end of the day, this is a small step forward for the people who have been hit by this recession. It's a real win-win.''

Viewers seated in Senate the gallery, applauding loudly when the bill finally passed by a single vote after eight hours of debate, were gently reproved by Lieutenant Gov. Nancy Wyman and later poured out into the hall to celebrate properly with Sen. Edith Prague, who ardently supported the bill with a reservation. A Prague amendment attached to the bill exempted all manufacturing in the state, apparently on the unshakable assumption that the increases in business costs approved by Mrs. Prague for other businesses should not be permitted to affect Connecticut’s dwindling manufacturing sector. Mrs. Prague is an ardent fan of manufacturing and unions and legislatively inflated wages. Her sympathies do not flow as easily to the great majority of other state businesses opposed to the measure she supported.

The Paid Sick Leave bill requires all employers in Connecticut – except those favored by Mrs. Prague’s amendment – to pay their workers one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours they work, the total number of paid days being capped at five per year.

Senior vice president and chief lobbyist for the 10,000-member Connecticut Business and Industry Association Joseph Brennan, pointed out the obvious: “This is just a terrible piece of legislation. This is an anti-jobs, anti-business bill, despite what was said on the floor. We've done nothing — again, nothing — to encourage businesses to grow in Connecticut. … It's bad precedent. We don't want to be the first state to adopt this.''

But the Working Families Party and Mrs. Prague and Mr. Kissel and majority Democrats in the Senate, long since strapped to the main mast of union demands, were not prepared to give up the ongoing struggle to make Connecticut less competitive than the other 49 states that have no such bill on their legislative books.

Now first in the nation in debt, Connecticut is also first in the nation to pass a bill that will almost certainly speed the state towards a progressive future that will collapse progressively about its ears and likely create more unemployment for workers discharged by companies attempting to recover part of the costs imposed upon them by Democrats claiming their bill will enhance job opportunities in the state – a win, win opportunity for any more prudent state contiguous to Connecticut

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Healy’s Out

Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy confirmed on the Dan Lavallo Talk of Connecticut show that he does not intend to run for re-election.

In an ironic way, Healy, and all future chairpersons of both parties, may be the victims of party reform. Party chairmen are not what they used to be in the heyday of party bosses when giants – John Bailey in the Democratic Party and his compliment in the Republican Party, Meade Alcorn – ruled the roost with iron fists in velvet gloves.

Myths outlive reality, and the myth of the party chairman ruling autocratically by cleverly manipulating events in now smokeless back rooms has yet to succumb to reality.

Some in the Republican Party who continue to protest that Mr. Healy cleverly subverted the nominating convention to secure the nomination of Linda McMahon to the U.S. Senate -- apparently so that Mr. Healy’s wife, Susan Bibisi, could be put on Mrs. McMahon’s payroll – doth protest far too much on very slender evidence.

That said, it may or may not serve the Republican Party well that Mr. Healy has resigned his post, but Republicans should beware what they ask for. It is by no means certain that Mr. Healy’s replacement will be able to elevate the party above Mr. Healy’s accomplishments.

Democratic Party Chairwoman, Nancy DeNardo, was kind enough to offer Mr. Healy a left handed (pun intended) compliment in her response to his announcement.

“While Chris and I didn’t often agree on the issues, he was always respectful to me, and he worked hard for the Republican Party. We both shared a respect for the importance of political parties, and an understanding of the need for a public political dialogue. The Republican Party’s track record at the polls – especially in this past election cycle, which should have been a great Republican year –was poor, and I can imagine his frustration. I sincerely wish him the best as he moves forward with his life. He’s passionate about what he believes in, and he works hard. I respect both of those traits.”
And then the imperatives of her job clicked in:

“I want to say that what ails the Republican Party isn’t going to be fixed by the selection of a new Chairperson, no matter who it is. The Connecticut Republicans are becoming increasingly irrelevant because they’re being dragged farther and farther to the right by the fringe elements of their own party, and the Tea Party. The positions they hold on a host of issues are out of step with the average Connecticut resident, and they’re bereft of new ideas to help solve Connecticut’s problems. Too often the Republican Party has reduced itself to finding rich people to run in the hopes that somehow money can trump ideas. But as they found out in the last election cycle, democracy isn’t for sale in Connecticut.

“The people of Connecticut want what Connecticut Democrats, led by Governor Malloy, are giving them: an honest budget that brings fiscal stability so that we can finally start creating the kinds of good-paying jobs with good benefits that will jumpstart this economy.”
If Mr. Healy were not retiring, he might have pointed out several lapses in Mrs. DeNardo’s complimentary parting wishes.

Republican office holders in the U.S. Congress are no longer rich because, as Mrs. DeNardo may have noticed, these offices are held exclusively by Democrats, two of whom -- U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro – are millionaires. Mr. Dodd, chosen as the chief lobbyist for the motion picture industry, will become a millionaire shortly. The last two Republican governors were not rich. And if one measures wealth by the amount of money politicians are able to raise in their campaigns, certainly one must concluded that U.S. Rep. Rep. John Larson, who spent millions defending a gerrymandered district the Democrats had not lost for 50 years, was far richer than his Republican challenger, Ann Brickley, who spent far less on her campaign. Democrats across the board spent far more on their campaigns during the last election cycle than their poorer Republican counterparts.

The Tea Party generally has had a beneficial influence on Republicans who won elections in the last campaign, which is probably why Mrs. DeNardo is so quick to denigrate the Tea Party; blowing fog over the political landscape is just part of the job of a party chairman.

And finally, whether the people of Connecticut are content with the largest tax increase in the state’s history, the leeching of business to other states and a “shared sacrifice” among state union workers far more temporary than the burdensome taxes the Malloy administration has imposed on voters are all matters to be decided in future elections that will not be shaped, fortunately or unfortunately, by Mr. Healy.

The Dannel Malloy State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition Complex

There is no termination date on the tax increase contract between taxpayers and the Malloy administration – because there is no written contract.

Some of the items in the contract to be signed by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), the state union coalition negotiating contracts with Governor Malloy, do have a termination date. For instance, the salaries of state union members, frozen for two years, will unfreeze thereafter and increase by 3% during the following three years.

In such precarious times, it must be liberating for state workers to know that the “shared sacrifice” of salary givebacks has a termination date affixed to it. Actuaries hired by the Malloy administration tell us that the temporary salary freeze will save the state $ 448,402,275, according to a budget fact sheet given out to the state’s media. Because the freeze terminates after two years, the savings to the state is itself temporary, while the salary increase of 9% over three years will be permanent. Other actuarial figures supplied by the Malloy administration may be soft because the times in which we live are a’ changing -- almost daily.

Not so with the tax increase portion of Mr. Malloy’s “shared sacrifice.” The $1.8 billion tax increase, the largest in Connecticut’s history, will permanently dredge dollars from taxpayer’s increasingly depleted resources. There is no such thing within the living memory of any member of the General Assembly, including the long memory of the 86 year old Sen. Edith Prague, as a temporary tax or a temporary tax increase, and it certainly is cold comfort to reflect that the federal income tax at its inception was a two percent levy on millionaires – real millionaires. The income tax now is paid by proletarian waitresses at the local diner.

And, of course, other taxes have gone up. Connecticut’s new budget reduces the threshold on estate and gift taxes; raises the income tax retroactively to January 1, 2011 on individuals with taxable income over $50,000 and joint filers whose income exceeds $100,000; slaps an Amazon tax on internet sales, increases the number of tax brackets from 3 to 6 and imposes a 20% surcharge on corporations for 2012 and 2013.

While Mr. Malloy has suggested that unions accept his budget and blame him for the sacrifices he is asking unions members to make, not all the members of unions presently negotiating contracts with the Malloy administration are sanguine, according to a recent Associated Press report:

“Despite the promise of no layoffs for four years, three years of wage increases following a two-year freeze and the continuation of coveted benefits such as pensions, retiree health care and longevity bonuses, there's skepticism and leeriness about the deal among many of the state's 45,000 unionized workers. Some want promises that big businesses and wealthy taxpayers will be asked to pay more if they agree to givebacks. Some simply want to see the details.”

An attempt by the Malloy administration to unveil the details of the Malloy-SEBAC deal to Connecticut’s media at Rentschler Field in East Hartford met with mixed success. Noting that the budget falls about $400 million short of projected expenditures, editorial departments of some newspapers wanted to see the actual rabbit drawn from the hat at the conclusion of union negotiations before they bestowed their blessing upon a tax increase even larger than that imposed in the 1991 Weicker budget, which featured Connecticut’s new state income tax.

Almost no one but committed leftists and boilerplate union demagogues are encouraging Mr. Malloy to conduct further raids on the profits of Connecticut businesses, some of which already have picked up stakes and moved all or part of their operations to more business friendly environments elsewhere. It turns out that “elsewhere” – at least in the case of Precision Camera And Video, Pfizer and Yardley Technical Products is across the border into nearby states. As an additional bump out the door, Connecticut has slapped a corporation surcharge on homegrown businesses that have not yet explored alternative sites in, say, New Hampshire, a state that – lacking a Weicker or a Bill Cibes to jam an income tax proposal through its legislature – maintains its low tax, low regulatory status. Of the nine states without income taxes, all but one, Alaska, saw more people migrating in than out from 2000 to 2008. Connecticut has been losing population to other states ever since it adopted its income tax.

Any lesson that may be gleaned from such data is certain to be lost on a Democratic controlled General Assembly and governor poised to push through the legislature a bill fervently supported by the redundant Connecticut Working Party, little more than an annex of the Democratic Party,
that would require companies with more than 50 workers to provide up to five sick days a year for employees and new hires who had put in 520 hours on the job.

Nice work -- if you can get it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The May Fish Wrap

Green on Dannel, The Big Sizzle

After a brief flirtation, Rick Green, Courant columnist and blogger, has pretty much had it with the Republican Party.

Mr. Green switched parties not so long ago -- possibly from independent, the chosen designation of putative “objective” journalists, to Republican – so as to have the opportunity of voting in a Republican primary.

This was in the dark days before Dannel Malloy, then Dan Malloy, became governor and began “sizzling.”

The trouble with extended metaphors – “Malloy's Big Appetite: The Steak And The Sizzle” -- is that they’re a little like an unhappy marriage: Once you’ve made the proposal, you’re stuck with the consequences throughout the column.

Sunk in an unhappy metaphor, Mr. Green unfurls his true colors:

“Republicans, left to ponder the dubious vision of fringe legislators such as Len Suzio and Joe Markley, sustain themselves on the increasingly inane radio commentary of John Rowland, now elbowing his way back to the table. In reality, they have been steamed and pureed by a Democratic governor who is closely following a traditional Democratic recipe.”

There’s more cookery, unfortunately:

“Chef Dannel has been loading on the calories… He's doubled portions for the University of Connecticut Health Center plan, which now weighs in at almost $900 million, and, if promises are to be believed, will one day yield a gut-busting 16,400 jobs… A proposed billion-dollar upgrade to train travel is merely the first item on the transportation menu, so Malloy's ordered up the $600 million busway, a forward-thinking but highly risky plan, to get Connecticut commuters out of their cars and into buses... There's so much on Malloy's plate it might not matter whether everything actually succeeds by the time Election Day rolls around again in 2014. After years of a starvation diet, this gastronomic governor is offering a little something for everyone…Foley [Tom, Mr. Malloy’s Republican opponent in the gubernatorial campaign], back managing his companies but keeping a watchful eye on gubernatorial politics, told me that Malloy's ‘bigger and more expensive government’ diet lacks any discipline… Actually, I think Malloy knows just what he is doing. We just don't know how big his appetite is yet…”
Thoughtless ideas, wretched prose and tummy turning commentary.

Larson Finds Mutual Understanding In Communist China

Connecticut 1st District Rep. John Larson, U.S. House Democratic Caucus Chairman, was in fascist China at the end of May cannoodling with Lu Yongxiang, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

According to an abbreviated report from Beijing:

“As long as China and the United States continue candid dialogues and deep cooperation while accommodating each other's grave concerns and core interests, the two sides are bound to see advancements in their relationship, said Lu Yongxiang, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

"’Enhancing Sino-U.S. cooperation will exert profound impacts on regional and global peace, stability and prosperity,’ Lu said.

“Larson, who is on an unofficial visit to China, agreed with Lu's view, saying that close mutual understanding is a cornerstone of bilateral ties.

“During his tour, Larson also paid a visit to Pingquan County in north China's Hebei Province to inaugurate a computer laboratory sponsored by UPS, a global logistics giant.

“Larson was invited by the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs, and will conclude his six-day tour on Friday.”
When Mr. Larson returns home, he may be surprised to learn that Pakistan has requested China to build a naval base at its south-western port of Gwadar. Pakistan, according to a story in the Financial Times, “expects the Chinese navy to maintain a regular presence there, a plan likely to alarm both India and the US.”

Mr. Larson, however, is not a politician who is easily alarmed.

War Powers Act? What War Powers Act?

ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper reports that the fearsome War Powers Act, enacted by congress to assert its constitutional co-responsibility when the U.S. military is engaged in active service in foreign parts, has now gone the way of the dodo bird, a flightless native of Mauritus, discovered in 1598 and extinct by 1681.

The War Powers Act was dispatched with a brief letter sent by President Barack Obama to congressional leaders in which Mr. Obama suggested that the U.S. military role in Libya is so inconsequential that, in the words of Mr. Tapper, “he does not need to seek congressional approval.”

“Since April 4,” the president wrote, “U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition's efforts.”

Mr. Obama sought the advice and consent of the United Nations but not the U.S. Congress when he began to drop non-kinetic bombs on Libya. This ticked off some congressmen, but their fury paled in comparison to the agita produced by former President Ronald Reagan’s affair with the Contras then fighting the Communist led government of the Ortega brothers in Nicaragua (pronounced NEE-KA-RA-GUA, and please roll the “r”).

Co-incidentally, leftist cartoonist Ted Rall is being persecuted for having produced anti-Obama propaganda, a problem that does not torment Gary Trudeau of Doonsbury fame:
"There’s been a push among political cartoonists to get our work into the big editorial blogs and online magazines that seem poised to displace traditional print political magazines like The Progressive. In the past, editorial rejections had numerous causes: low budgets, lack of space, an editor who simply preferred another creator’s work over yours.
"Now there’ s a new cause for refusal: Too tough on the president."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Financing The UConn Health Center Boondoggle

Continuing a policy of picking winners and losers, the Malloy administration has decided to throw dollars it does not have at the UConn Health Center, a losing proposition described in a news story written by reporter Chris Keating of the Hartford Courant in less than flattering terms.

Concerning UConn's continuing fiscal problems,” Mr. Keating wrote, “a longtime Capitol insider described the health center as ‘a burning tire around the state's neck.’

“The health center has had chronic financial problems, and the legislature has bailed out the Farmington institution four times since 2000. The huge infusion of funds often comes on the last day of the legislative session, which this year is June 8.”

Upon hearing that Mr. Malloy intends to spend $864 million on the health center, $136 million short of the $1 billion surplus Mr. Malloy and Democrats in the legislature furtively tucked into their budget, Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy, admittedly a partisan, said, “The UConn Health Center has long been a disaster for taxpayers and patients. It should be shuddered, not rewarded with millions and threaten community hospitals that do a good job providing quality health care. If Democrats shower millions on the UConn Health Center, it will lead to more of the same - a waste of tax dollars while under-cutting health care providers that are hanging on for dear life. Fresh from his fiscal shell game on the budget, Gov. Malloy thinks he can break out another credit card to reward the unions who work at that facility."

The “other hospitals” mentioned by Mr. Healy will be facing additional taxes when the budget has been finalized. State unions have yet to ratify the deal arranged between agents of the governor and union negotiators. The fine print on that deal involves a pledge made by the governor to refrain from using private companies to displace work the governor believes may better be done at greater costs by unionized state workers. The privatization tool that Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven wishes to utilize to cut costs in his city was one of the first victims of Mr. Malloy’s union concessions.

In mid- March Josh Kovner of the Hartford Courant examined in some detail a no-bid-no-contract arrangement between the UConn Health Center (UCHC) and the state that was designed to provide mental-health and medical services to the state prison system under a “memorandum of agreement” with no expiration date.

Sen. Rob Kane of Watertown, the ranking Republican member of the legislature's appropriations committee questioned whether it was “plausible to have a private, for-profit, provider perform these services," perhaps at a lower cost.

As a general rule, a contractual bid is necessary when the state does business with a private entity, but since the health center and the state are both government bodies, the $864 million business deal was concluded through what is called “memorandum of agreement” rather than the usual bidding process. The memorandum agreement, operative since 1997, provides no transparency, and it is virtually impossible to determine whether the work might have been done at a lesser cost because competition is thwarted when multiple bidders have not been permitted to offer competing cost estimates.

The cost of doing business in entities heavily subsidize by the state tends to increase because such institutions may rely upon easily tapped tax resources to cover unmonitored expenses, and readily available public funds mitigate effective cost saving incentives. Competition IS the gun held to the temple of competing entities that keeps costs in check. The ceiling on costs in private enterprise is set by competitors who may offer the same products and services at a lower price. The UConn Heath Center, heavily subsidized by the state, needn’t worry about such things.

"They're in horrible financial shape,” said Ben Barnes, Mr. Malloy’s budget guru in mid-March. “We already heavily subsidize them. It's money one way or the other.”

We may hope that someone in Mr. Barnes’ past, perhaps his mother, may have whispered in his ear that it cannot help to throw good money after bad. In the private sphere, failed enterprises not artificially supported by government facilitators can and should go out of business. But even if Mr. Barnes were disposed to lower the escalating costs incurred by the UConn Health Center by parceling out some work to private competitors, his effort to recoup any part of the $864 million Mr. Malloy now recklessly proposes to throw in the direction of the health center would be frustrated by a policy decision made by the governor in concert with state unions that discourages such practices. The governor, state unions and the health center all prefer to tap into the dwindling resources of taxpayers to support cost increases and inefficiencies that would never be permitted in a private, reasonably regulated free marketplace.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Coutu Enters U.S. Congressional Race

The late Bill Buckley announced the mission of National Review Magazine, a publication he started and still the best conservative nursery bed of ideas, when he pledged that NR would stand “athwart history, yelling STOP, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”

Then as now, much of the nation – and nearly all of Connecticut – was a bastion of a fervent but mischievous liberalism. So, at National Review, there was much yelling of STOP over the years. Mr. Buckley, surely the most prolific conservative in the nation, lived for many years in Stamford, Connecticut in house nestled in a quiet cove but painted shocking pink. When his wife Pat, every inch Bill’s competitor in wit, was asked “Why pink?” she responded – “to attract the sailors.”

Although not always the case, Connecticut’s congressional delegation is, some people will have noticed, now entirely made up of liberals. Present U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy styles himself a progressive, but progressivism is little more than armed liberalism.

Former U.S. Reps. Nancy Johnson, Rob Simmons – who lost to his Democratic opponent Mr. Courtney by a scant 86 votes -- and Chris Shays, all defeated by unapologetic liberals, were styled by Connecticut’s left of center media as “moderate Republicans,” and the big Republican enchilada, Sen. Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax, had “Republican Maverick” emblazoned on his escutcheon for much of his career. Mr. Weicker obviously did not subscribe to National Review Magazine, nor was he much inclined to place himself athwart the leftist current of his time yelling STOP.

The last moderate New England congressional Republican, Chris Shays, was turned out of office three years ago, and his defeat left Republicans in New England without representation in the House for the first time in 150 years. The national debt – really, just the tip of debt obligations visible above the surface of the water – is now $14 trillion. The entire national debt – including all state, federal and municipal obligations – is about $140 trillion. The current national administration and left of center Democrats in the Congress propose to dig their way out of this debt hole by removing economic seed money from the economy in taxes, hoarding it in Washington D.C. and parceling it out in the form of grants or tax dispensations to industries they have tagged as winners. Here in Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy is aggressively following the same path to insolvency.

If anyone in Connecticut’s left of center media is inclined to look favorably upon conservatives who boldly stand athwart the state’s most recent history yelling STOP, it is not obvious from recent stories and commentaries. It is a given of the times in which we live that Chris Coutu, a state Rep. from Norwich who has announced plans to run against current U.S. Rep Joe Courtney in Connecticut’s sprawling 2nd District, cannot expect objective and fair treatment from the state’s establishment media, which has always operated on the principle that there is no enemy to the left – which, come to think of it, is part of the reason why the road ahead had become so clotted with job killing regulations, high taxes and ruinous ideas.

Most of Mr. Coutu’s supporters feel, as their state and nation approaches the edge of the abyss, that it is long past time to yell STOP.

Mr. Coutu, at the time of his election the only Republican state or federal legislative official in Southeastern Connecticut, is not at all discouraged by the odds facing him. Indeed, through a combination of right messaging and hustle, he was able to defeat popular 14-year incumbent Democratic incumbent Jack Malone in the state’s 47th district and has successfully fended off challengers ever since.

Frustrated by Connecticut’s rampant spending and the air of inevitability in the Democratic dominated General Assembly, Mr. Coutu in 2009 established the Common Sense for Connecticut Coalition, a group whose mission is constructed on four pillars: aggressive deficit and debt reduction through spending cuts; holding elected officials accountable; increasing government efficiency by prioritizing, consolidating and outsourcing some services; and ending budget gimmicks designed to mask state government's fiscal irresponsibility – all goals that would pay rich dividends in Washington’s Beltway .

The CSCC has promoted candidates that subscribe to its mission and was partly responsible for bringing into the General Assembly the greatest number of newly elected officials within one party since the party lever had been removed in 1986.

Perhaps more than his considerable energy, Mr. Cuoto’s message may resonate well with voters as he engages present U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney in a 2nd District battle – and that message almost certainly will include yelling STOP.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Donovan The Bold

Yet another Connecticut politician – this time Sen. Joe Lieberman – has given up his sinecure in the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Lieberman follows former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd out the door. After pledging not to become a lobbyist, Mr. Dodd, shaking from his feet the dust of Washington D.C., has now become – ta! da! – a lobbyist. But not just any lobbyist. Mr. Dodd has covered himself in tinsellated glory and is now the chief lobbyist for the motion picture industry. Mr. Dodd sups with the stars, sure and begorrah. This year the former Beltway fixture missed Connecticut’s Jefferson, Jackson Bailey dinner.

Mr. Lieberman – on the outs with his party for being Joe – also missed the dinner. But Mr. Lieberman offered progressive Democrats his compliments by leaving office, which has opened a frequently shut door to present Speaker of the House Chris Donovan.

Mr. Donovan was seen at the JJB dinner this year sporting on his lapel a picture of a guitar – the Speaker is really a frustrated rock star – emblazoned with the words “Chris Donovan for Congress.”

Present U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, who for the purpose of an ensuing Democratic primary advertises himself as a progressive, is hankering after Lieberman’s seat, and Mr. Murphy’s ambition has left open a seat in the 5th Congressional district for, among others, Mr. Donovan, who politically stands a couple of centimeters to the right of Daniel Livingston, the chief Negotiator for SEBAC in the union coalition's talks with the Malloy administration.

Among Republicans who already have thrown their hats into the 5th District ring are two energetic conservatives, Mark Greenberg and Justin Bernier, both of whom are committed to small and efficient government, free markets, adherence to constitutional principles and a fidelity to Abraham Lincoln’s definition of liberty:

“We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word many mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name - liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names - liberty and tyranny.”
Though Mr. Donovan this year was constrained to avoid schmoozing with union chieftains while the budget negotiations were under way, it is generally acknowledged that there are in Connecticut three or four important legislative union facilitators; Mr. Donovan is one of them. In the general election, should he make it that far, Mr. Donovan will affect moderation, and Connecticut’s left of center commentariat will as usual wink at the deception.

All this coming and going of politicians has reporters and political commentators scratching their heads and wondering – perhaps the imposition of term limits is not such a bad idea after all. Upon Mr. Lieberman’s leave-taking, Connecticut will be represented by newbie former Attorney General Dick Blumenthal and – the Grand Poobahs of the Democratic Party willing – the fresh faced Mr. Murphy. The newness of Connecticut’s U.S. Senate delegation blows out of the water the chief objection to term limits; namely, that once term limits are dangerously implanted in the political system, the Government will lose its intellectual capital.

Assuming he is successful in his Congressional run, Mr. Donovan will be replaced as House Speaker without loss of intellectual capital; Mr. Blumenthal already has been replaced as attorney general by the softer and kinder George Jepsen, without loss of intellectual capital. And so on down the line: With a nudge from Connecticut’s Supreme Court, former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz has been replaced and is now running for Mr. Lieberman’s seat. No measurable loss there, eh? So then, can we all kick into a cocked hat this antique notion that term limits will destroy the Republic?

We Can? Good.

Omnipresent journalist Christine Stuart of CTNewsJunkie snagged Mr. Donovan as he was emerging from the V.I.P. Room at the Connecticut Convention Center. Mr. Dovovan identified himself as the only candidate in the race already working for the betterment of the state and said he now wants to work for the people of Connecticut in Washington D.C. He was praised by fellow Democratic state Rep. Peter Tercyak of New Britain, who thought the manner in which Mr. Donovan announced his candidacy singled him out from more pedestrian candidates who avail themselves of press conferences for such purposes.

“How bold to do this instead of a carefully staged event,” said Mr. Tercyak. “He’s different. He’s bold.”

“Donovan the Bold” -- coming soon to a bumper sticker on a car near you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Real Budget Deal

Fresh from the Democratic Party’s web site, here is Democratic Party chieftain Nancy DiNardo’s reaction to the budget deal that Gov. Dannel Malloy wrested from union representatives:

“Thank you to Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman, the state employees, and the Democratic leadership in the Assembly for this major accomplishment. This is a critical first step, and there is more work to do, but this is definitely a good day for Connecticut taxpayers. This is what shared sacrifice and real leadership looks like.” - Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo
Though particulars of the deal were not revealed during the weeks of closed door negotiations, a broad outline of the Malloy administration-union deal, according to news reports, involved a union give back of $1.6 billion, $400 million short of Mr. Malloy’s earlier stated goal of $2 billion in the biennium budget. The savings shortfall is to be recovered from resources other than tax increases, according to the governor’s office.

Tucked into the present budget is a surplus of $1 billion that may be deposited in the state’s depleted “rainy day” fund or spent to finance a $900 million improvement of the state’s newest dollar-swallowing White Elephant, the University of Connecticut Health Center, or some other state financial “need” that will arise in the near future. Political columnist George Will defines a “need” as “a want that’s more than 24 hours old.” Needs of this kind have driven Connecticut to the brink of bankruptcy, and the state’s new one party infrastructure will not lessen its neediness.

Mr. Malloy intends to liquidate the greater part of Connecticut’s red ink, the largest per capita deficit in the nation, through a $ 1.4 billion tax increase that Mrs. DiNardo feels is “good for taxpayers.” The Democratic budget – no Republicans in the General Assembly were permitted to adjust it, or even breathe upon it – is the first entirely partisan budget that has seen the light of day in decades. This fiscal term, the Democrats control both the governor’s office and the General Assembly by a margin that renders collegiality among different Party members unnecessary.

Deferring to unions, the governor approved a four year “no lay off” clause that would be irrevocable even if, in future days, the red ink were to rise to cover Mrs. DiNardo’s ankles. The governor also extended the union agreement an additional five years. Unions leaders agreed to forgo raises for two years, after which salaries will increase at 3 percent for three years. Dreaded lay offs were removed from the bargaining table, and the governor considerably narrowed union give backs when, even before serious negotiations had begun, he steadfastly resolved to maintain the state’s obligations to municipalities, effectively removing the need for “shared sacrifice” at the town level -- all in all not a bad deal for the unions.

Before the doors were bolted shut on negotiations, Mr. Malloy suggested that union leaders and Democratic members of the General Assembly should quickly accept his proposal and lay on him the expected political blame arising from taxpayer and union dissatisfaction.

The Democratic budget raised taxes at a time when the governors of contiguous states had forwarded budgets that raised no taxes. Connecticut’s Democratic budget doubles the corporate surcharge during the nation’s deepest and most prolonged recession in many years, when many businesses – as opposed to the unsinkable CEOs of some of “too large to fail” businesses – are suffering rising costs and business slowdowns.

In Massachusetts, once derided in Connecticut as Taxachussetts, the Democratic legislature attacked collective bargaining, one of the more aggressive escalators of governmental costs. Republican leader John McKinney referred obliquely to the Massachusetts miracle in his senate response to the partisan Democratic budget when he said that Connecticut’s sister state had done things that “would be unthinkable” in the Democratic dominated General Assembly.

In a story in CTMirror, Mark Pazniokas was one of the few reporters in the state who noted that Mr. Malloy this year had an infrequent opportunity to drive down the costs of union contracts that would not occur again until 2017, “three years after the next gubernatorial election,’ when current union contracts on pension and health benefits expired.

Gubernatorial leverage in union negotiations, in other words, is limited by the date of expiration on union contracts, an arrangement that gives unions an inestimable edge in negotiations with elected representatives in the state that unions would doubtless prefer to maintain, for it prevents governors and legislators from pressuring unions to make deals that Mrs. DiNardo, the head of the Democratic Party, amusingly considers a boon to taxpayers. There is no movement afoot in Connecticut’s new one party state to redress this costly imbalance; neither will union reliant Democrats challenge binding arbitration

French Socialist And Head Of The International Monetary Fund Arrested In New York On Sex Charges

It would appear from the charges leveled against M. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 67, leader of the International Monetary Fund and a possible candidate for President of France, that the prominent French Socialist just got a little bit too big for his britches.

Even unflappable France, a country that tends to wink at the indiscretions of its sometimes oversexed leaders, seemed abashed.

"It's a cross that will be difficult for him to bear," said Dominique Paille, a political rival to Strauss-Kahn on the center right. "It's totally hallucinating. If it is true, this would be a historic moment, but in the negative sense, for French political life.”

The Associated Press has reported:

“According to an account the woman [ a hotel maid] provided to police, Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he began to sexually assault her. She said she fought him off, then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again and escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said. They called police.”
New York police, who do not take a casual attitude toward such behavior, yanked M. Strauss-Kahn off a plane headed for gay Paree, whose mayor, by the way, has funded a press junket this week for journalists from American gay publications. Bootie Cosgrove-Mather (his real name) reports on CBS News that “the mayor wishes to make Paris leading detination for gay travelers”

It cannot happen soon enough.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On The Road Again?

In traveling about the state attempting to sell his budget at 17 Town Halls meetings, Governor Dannel Malloy may not have heard from Phil (not his real name). He’s an engineer, and engineers tend to maintain low profiles – unless you uncork them.

Dilbert, the much read and much loved comic character in the strip by Scott Adams, is an engineer, a worker hero constantly grappling with the vagaries of business in the good old US of A.

Phil's e-mail began with a reference to budget passed in the General Assembly and affirmed – with some significant changes – by a coalition of union leaders over the weekend. Phil is a stickler on what he calls “the math” of the budget. His emails are here reproduced in full and untouched.

Subject: gotta love it

I love reading about Democrats who have the courage to raise taxes.

I'm still having trouble with Malloy's math. So delaying raises for 2 years equals 1.6 Billion? The details to be named later should be interesting.

Some day you should do a piece how many students in Eastern Ct, especially those near Norwich Free Academy have School choice.

Districts that don't have a high school (they are too small to support a school) have their choice of a number of schools.

The high schools actually come in and market to the prospective students and their parents.

It's really amazing.
I wrote back that “vouchers would have the same effect.”

A voucher system would allow parents to shop around for the best school. And best schools would be showered with money, while the poorer schools would whither on the vine. Start up schools would incorporate into their curricula the best practices of the best schools because, in the good old US of A – everywhere but in public education -- we measure success by sprinkling it with money.

And we know what miracles the powerful aphrodisiac of success produces:

Every success involves considerable risk. And every attempt to eliminate risk in behalf of security is a nail in the coffin of success. You can’t take your chances by eliminating chances.

Subject: Re: gotta love it

They actually listen to the parents and develop programs to meet the parents/students needs.

It’s a model that has been ongoing and working for decades.

We are thinking of moving to be in Norwich Free Academy's district, my wife went there.

But we are also trying to figure out how to leave the state. Our house is the big factor: It’s not just a matter of what price, but IF it can sell.

I work for [a large aeospace company], we can't find Aerospace Engrs in Ct, we can find Aerospace Engrs outside of Ct, but we can't convince them to move to Ct.

How sad is that? We invented Aerospace engineering in Ct.
I wrote back: “That pretty much says it all. Can I use the content of your letter -- without mentioning you, of course?”

Permission granted.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Here George Bush gently slaps Stephanopoulos upside the head

“Is that truth or gossip?”

Bysiewicz Revididus

Former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, now running for U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacated seat along side U.S. Rep Chris Murphy, may have had her front grill dented a bit in recent days, but it must be said the lady now is in fearsome forward motion.

Mrs. Bysiewicz has called for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan as soon as practicable and, by so doing, got a jump on the laggard Mr. Murphy, who has been advertising himself in different venues as the progressive’s progressive.

The modern progressives, nearly all of them Democrats, not so long ago were bestirring themselves as anti-war zealots. Who can forget Cindy Sheehan’s often reported march on former President George Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch?

During the Bush presidency, the air crackled with fervent calls by then presidential campaigner Barack Obama to shut down the Iraq war shortly after the Petraeus surge had been launched. The progressives were hot on closing down GITMO, still open for business. A not yet dead Sen. Edward Kennedy and several excitable congresspersons were besieged by leftists in the Democratic Party to start an investigation that might, God willing, lead to impeachment proceedings against the president and his dark star, former Vice President Dick Cheney. A bill of particulars, eerily resembling Mr. Obama’s venture into Libya, was drawn up by Ronnie Dugger and published in the Texas Observer:

“Bush announced in 2002 his illegal presidential policy that the United States can and will attack other nations first, waging war on them, when he so decides. He is now waging, as if he were doing it in our names, a bloody war of aggression against Iraq, which on the face of it is a crime against humanity under the Nuremberg principles that we and our allies established and enforced with hangings after World War II.”
These were heady times.

All this rhetorical effluvia was launched before President Barack Obama began to morph into Mr. Bush, at least in matters of foreign policy. Domestic policy wise, the president still stands staunchly a bit to the right of Senator Karl Marx. But even here, disappointed progressive Democrats have noticed some unfortunate slippage.

Mrs. Bysiewicz’s bold and unambiguous call for a removal of troops from what has been called “the graveyard of empires” opens the door, unfortunately for Democrats, to a reconsideration of Mr. Obama’s “war of choice” in Afghanistan.

A few weeks ago, dark star Cheney characterized the assassination of Osama bin Laden as "a tremendous achievement for the military and intelligence professionals who carried out this important mission." And the ex-Vice President even went so far as to bestow a compliment on the Democratic president: “I also want to congratulate President Obama and the members of his national security team.” And then Mr. Cheney predictably went and spoiled it all, warning that the war on terror must continue. "Al Qaeda,” said Mr. Cheney “remains a dangerous enemy. Though bin Laden is dead, the war goes on."

Mrs. Bysiewicz and Mr. Murphy, both courting the progressive vote in bluer than blue Connecticut, beg to differ with Mr. Cheney and, perhaps more importantly, with each other.

On a return trip from Afghanistan, Mr. Murphy sent out to his progressive supporters an e-mail in which he said he supported a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan but favored a “long standing presence” in the country.
He was vigorously attacked by Mrs. Bysiewicz, who said “"I strongly disagree with Congressman Murphy on this issue." Mrs. Bysiewitz also took a roundhouse swipe at retiring Sen. Lieberman: “Connecticut Democrats deserve a replacement to Senator Joe Lieberman who will consistently be progressive on removing US troops from Afghanistan."

Following the dust up, former chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee John Droney, long a Lieberman supporter and a political realist, archly observed that the most leftward liberal of the two would want to capture the affections of progressives in a primary race. Mrs. Bysiewicz’s linking of Mr. Murphy and Mr. Lieberman, reviled by progressives, therefore might be a politically astute move.

Mr. Murphy affected a fetching bewilderment. What ever could Mrs. Bysiewicz mean? Does she favor a withdrawl of troops, like, tomorrow?

Possibly not.

Neither of the two Democratic contenders for the U.S. Senate have been asked a question put to presidential spokesperson Jay Carney in a recent press gaggle. Asked on May 13 whether the Obama administration was prepared to ask Congress for approval to continue the participation in the no-fly zone in Libya, the president’s official spokesman, Jay Carney, responded,“I don’t have anything with regard to the 60-day issue, if that’s what you’re referring to.”

Unlike Mr. Obama, who sought authority from the United Nations rather than the U.S. Congress when he ordered the bombing of Libya, Mr. Bush was in compliance with the War Powers Act, which requires the president to seek authority from Congress 60 days after engaging in a war theatre.

The clock on the War Powers Act is ticking. Are the two Democratic contenders for Mr. Lieberman’s seat in the congress concerned?

Possibly not.

The Trouble With Plan A

There were several things wrong with Plan B, the most important of which was that it was not proposed by the Malloy administration as a serious effort to control spending, the pink elephant in budget room. But Plan A as currently constructed does not control spending either, because spending in Connecticut is driven by entitlements, long term union contracts and binding arbitration, cost escalators left untouched by Plan A.

Plan B was never more than a pistol held to the temples of union negotiators who had resisted the gubernatorial dictates of Plan A.

Conceived as a threat, Plan B was presented to the general public as a threat, and its conception and presentation were received by the general public in the same spirit. Indeed, Governor Dannel Malloy and both leaders of the Democratic dominated General Assembly, President of the Senate Don Williams and Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, repeatedly and roundly condemned Plan B even as it was presented, as a cruel default budget plan. Plan B was not Mr. Malloy’s preferred option, the governor said repeatedly.

State Senator Edith Prague, during her 28 years in the General Assembly a devoted union supporter, fairly fainted when she got a gander at Plan B, every Democrat’s mock-up of what they think a Republican budget might have looked like if union operatives had failed to turn out a sufficient number of votes in two of Connecticut’s principal cities during the gubernatorial election, which votes drove the election in Mr. Malloy’s favor by the slimmest of margins and prevented a Republican victory.

"This Plan B takes my breath away,'' said the vice chairwoman of the budget-writing appropriations committee.”It's so unbelievable what it would do to the state of Connecticut. I can't believe these cuts. This is the worst I have seen.''

Plan B passed along Mr. Malloy’s “shared sacrifice” to municipalities by threatening to cut state grants to towns. Among Democrats, it has been supposed that such cuts would result in higher property taxes. But, in fact, such cuts, accompanied by reductions in state mandates, easily could have resulted in cost saving measures within municipalities that might have rolled back than Plan A the tsunami of spending that threatens to beggar the state. Towns, through budget referendums, have been much more successful in reducing costs than have legislators in the Democratic dominated General Assembly.

When Republican leader John McKinney rose in the state senate to protest the Democratic hegemon that had produced a budget without a single Republican fingerprint on it, he touched very lightly on the recent strange doings within the Massachusetts legislature, dominated even more heavily by Democrats, “if one could believe such a thing,” than the General Assembly in Connecticut.

Perhaps to spare the fidgeting Mr. Williams seated beside him, Mr. McKinney did not let the words “repeal binding arbitration” fall from his lips. He spoke in general terms of the Massachusetts legislature having done things that would astonish and appall Democrats in Connecticut. In fact, the Massachusetts legislature, fitfully attempting to regain control of spending, had produced bill abolishing binding arbitration.

Binding arbitration, entitlements and long term union contracts have this in common: They all bind future governors and legislators and are, for that reason, profoundly anti-republican. At the center of republican government lies the notion that a legislature should not be able to bind its successor. The republican ideal is that the people, through their elected representatives, should be able to shape the future. Costly entitlements frustrate republican government. By way of example, the entitlement liabilities of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security amount to $75 trillion, five times the Gross Domestic Product. The national debt is pegged upwards of $14 trillion; but toss in state and municipal debt and the figure balloons to $140 trillion. These are chains that bind. In attempting to repeal binding arbitration, the Democratic dominated Massachusetts legislature is seeking to throw off a few links of the chain to clear the future of roadblocks that prevent a profitable forward movement.

Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell, who also writes a column in the paper, is one of the best budget commentators in the state. Mr. Powell has been calling upon the Democratic dominated General Assembly to abolish binding arbitration for years, to no avail. Recently his admonitions have had some success – in Wisconsin. And now in Massachussetts. The whirlpool of common sense is edging closer.

In a recent column the very title of which may cause Mrs. Prague to swoon -- “On to Plan B where we should have started” -- Mr. Powell greeted Plan B as a feint in the right direction. With some modifications favorable to unions – the Democratic legislature shaved nearly half a billion off state worker’s “shared sacrifice,” saved municipalities the trouble of pairing down union contracts and pushed effective reform beyond the governors first term -- the General Assembly has now installed Plan A, a much less serious reform package than Plan B. Because tax payers in Connecticut have no union, there were no negotiations that might have affected the tax increases – which includes a budget surplus -- Democrats have thrown like a yoke over the citizens of the state.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dannel In Wonderland

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."
On the other side of the rabbit hole, we all know, things are upside down and inside out. Wonderland has an awesomely terrifying logic of its own, unrelated to the sensuous world. And that is why Humpty Dumpty can make words mean so many different things. The connection between words and things are irreparably broken in Wonderland, the very definition of madness.

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
The logic here is faultless – but wrong.

In politics, power carries the point, however ruinous. Humpty Dumpty, not yet fallen off the wall and shattered into a thousand pieces, knows that in the end all political dickering reduces to this: “which is to be master, that’s all.”

When Republican leader John McKinney rose within the circle – senators in the General Assembly refer to themselves collectively as the circle, because they are arranged in a circle facing each other – to respond to a budget cobbled together by the Democratic caucus and the first Democratic governor since former Governor William O’Neil threw in the towel, he gave the best single speech of the day, not because he was master in Humpty Dumpty’s phrase, but because he was right.

The ferocity of Mr. McKinney’s attack was both surprising and cleansing. Did the Democrats say they had cut spending in their budget? They had not cut spending. They cut projected spending, a phantasm, and called their reduction a cut; but, as a matter of fact, bottom line spending for the two years budget, Mr. McKinney said, is greater in each year than it had been in the last budget, and the difference represents an increase in spending, not a decrease.

With one clean wipe, the chicanery disappeared.

Sitting next to McKinney in the circle, Democratic President of the Senate Don Williams fidgeted with his papers, seeming somewhat put upon that he and his comrades had been called out so publicly for having attached such disparate meanings to the word “cut.” But Humpty Dumpty knows that power, and with it budget mastery, covers a multitude of sins. The question “Which is to be master?” had been answered long before Mr. McKinney started speaking, and Mr. Williams was appropriately tolerant.

As Mr. McKinney continued, pricking bubble after bubble of misdirection, a gorgeous flower of righteous indignation unfolded. The Democrats had smuggled into their budget a billion dollar surplus. A surplus! In this hour, when their constituents are losing their jobs? When they have been raked by the devil’s claws? And the Democrats arrange a surplus? Mr. McKinney was just beginning:

“Maybe someone in this room can explain this to me. The price of food and education is going up so we can have a surplus? That’s irresponsible. They didn’t do that in New York. They didn’t do it in New Jersey. They didn’t have an historic increase in taxes in Rhode Island. In the Massachusetts legislature – which has far fewer Republican legislators than we have here, believe it or not – they’ve taken steps that would be unthinkable in Connecticut to control costs. [The reference is to the Democratic led effort in Massachusetts to eliminate collective bargaining)]. But we can’t do that here. No, we’re different, we’re told. Connecticut’s different. Well, here are the consequences of Connecticut’s being different: We’re losing jobs. We’re not losing jobs to South Carolina and Georgia – Yeah, we are – but we’re not just losing jobs to South Carolina and Georgia. And we’re not just losing jobs to Mexico and China. That’s what we all thought, right? Connecticut’s different. Well, in April, Precision Camera And Video said they’re cutting 234 jobs from Enfield, a company that a couple of years ago was awarded for its growth – now cutting 234 jobs. We just learned a Waterbury company is leaving to move to Armonk, New York – not Georgia, not South Carolina, not Mexico, not China, forty five minutes down the road to Armonk, New York. And they have a deal with the state of New York where they’re actually going to add jobs. We learned that Pfizer was moving their neuro and cardiovascular research unit not to North Carolina, not to Mexico, not to China, but to Cambridge, Massachusetts. We learned that Yardley Technical Products from Pawcatuck, Connecticut was relocating 165 manufacturing jobs, not to Georgia, not to South Carolina, not to Mexico, not to China, but to East Greenwich, Rhode Island. We’ve lost jobs to Massachusetts; we’ve lost jobs to Rhode Island; we’ve lost jobs to New York. New York didn’t raise taxes. Massachusetts is making reforms hat are unheard of in Connecticut, and Rhode Island didn’t engage in this type of tax increases. Coincidence? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. We are at this moment of history because of our failure to act properly within the last couple of years – and because of the unwillingness of this majority to make the tough decisions that have to be made.”
Every fiscal year since former Governor Lowell Weicker first poured income tax gas on the fires of spending, the legislature had piled surplus on surplus, tucking the over appropriated expenditures into the budget, increasing spending from $7.5 billion to $20 billion within the time frame of three governors. And now, when unemployment in Connecticut is nine percent, when their constituents cannot pay their bills, the Democrats in the General Assembly raise taxes and unaccountably feel the need for yet another billion dollar surplus, another slush fund that in the future may be dumped into the general fund to save them the trouble of making necessary cost reductions.

Are you serious?

The Malloy-Williams contraption had been fashioned entirely by Democratic hands, one of rare times in the history of the General Assembly that the chamber had produced a wholly partisan budget. And just look here: The appropriations side of the ledger was, in fact, short two billion dollars, the amount of savings Mr. Malloy and Mr. Williams hoped to wrangle from state unions. The negotiations were by no means settled when the budget, forced through the senate by Mr. Williams at warp speed, had been signed. Couldn’t the Democrats have been more prudent? Why did they not wait, Mr. McKinney asked, until they had the savings in hand – at most a couple of weeks? Why had they not consulted with the Republicans they will be forced to face in the brotherly circle of the senate as the biennium unwinds?

Why? Because power recognizes only power as its master.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Plan B Lifts Off

Governor Dannel Malloy today announced “After more than two months of talks, I'm afraid that my administration and the state employee unions have not reached agreement. Our talks have been respectful and forthright so far, and I remain willing to continue the discussions if the unions are willing to do so. However, we must all be willing to work toward a settlement that Connecticut taxpayers can afford in the long run.”

Negotiations between the governor’s office and union leaders were not entirely leak proof. There were indications that the talks had been going no where, but no one was willing to speak on the record. The sticking point from the union side was that negotiators were unwilling to succumb to the size of the givebacks, said to be $20,000 per year per state worker.

In the absence of an agreement – really more a capitulation than an agreement – Mr. Malloy announced today that lay off notices would be sent out immediately:

“I have directed OPM to begin issuing layoff notices in an orderly fashion to the first 4,742 state employees. Those layoffs will result in savings of approximately $455 million. I've also directed OPM to begin the process necessary to cut an additional $545 million in spending; those cuts, many of them programmatic, will be spread across state government, and will, in all likelihood, result in additional layoffs.

"I want to be clear that this is not the road I wanted to go down. I didn't want to lay people off, and I didn't want to make additional spending cuts beyond the $780 million in spending we've already cut.

"But I have no choice. I promised the people of Connecticut that I would change the way we do business in Hartford. I promised to deliver a budget that is balanced with no gimmicks, and I will.”
In his press release, Mr. Malloy said that the savings he hoped to realize in his negotiations with union leaders were “predicated on two principles: we need to achieve the short-term savings necessary to balance this budget, and we need long-term, structural savings in order to make state government sustainable. To do so, I am attempting to bring the benefits enjoyed by state employees -- wages, healthcare, and pension benefits -- more in line with those enjoyed by their counterparts in the private sector and in the federal workforce."

The talks likely stalled on benefit package reforms as well.

In response to Mr. Malloy’s most recent announcement, the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition this morning posted the following statement on its website:

"The discussions have been extraordinarily complex and demand our continued efforts to find mutual resolution.

"SEBAC is disappointed the administration has decided to begin issuing layoff notices. We have said time and again that laying off workers, whether in the public or private sector, and slashing vital public services will prove disastrous to our shared goal of creating jobs and rebuilding the middle class - especially at a time when our 9.1% unemployment rate is already higher than the national average.”

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Unconstitutional Budget? So What?

There is, so far, only one semi-official response to a recent suit brought by the Roger Sherman Liberty Center against a budget fashioned by Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic Party caucus in the General Assembly. Republicans were not permitted to handle the sausage during the budget process, which unfolded in private behind closed doors.

The liberty center argues that the budget is unconstitutional because, absent concessions from state labor unions, the budget is not in balance, as required by the state constitution.

There is no doubt the state constitution requires a balance budget. The constitutional language is unambiguous:

“The amount of general budget expenditures authorized for any fiscal year shall not exceed the estimated amount of revenue for such a fiscal year.”

There is no doubt the budget was not in balance at the time it was written into law and signed by Mr. Malloy. Negotiations between agents of Mr. Malloy and union leaders had not been concluded, and the union give backs required by Mr. Malloy that would have create a balanced budget have not yet, days out from the signing of the legislation, been given back. Thus, the amount of general budget expenditures authorized in the Malloy budget exceeded the revenues for the fiscal year.

Ergo, as the logicians say, there is no doubt the state’s operative budget is unconstitutional.

Mr. Malloy’s communications director, Roy Occhiogrosso, did not even bother to deny it. The law suit, he said, will be mooted once the union give backs materialize. Signed on the bottom line give backs are expected some time after Mr. Malloy’s attempts to intimidate union negociators prove successful. Presently, the budget is unconstitutional… but just you wait.

Ryan McKeen, a lawyer, considers the suit “stupid.” His blog is titled, “Even If CT’s Budget Is Unconstitutional….So What?”

Assuming the suit is successful, mr. McKeen argues, “The Court is not going to write a budget – it can’t. Like it or not, writing the budget is the legislature’s job.”

So then, we have from Mr. Malloy through his back door, Mr. Occhiogrosso, a noisy yawn, and a legal salon weighs in with a “So what?”

A robber robs a bank and is arrested. Brought to justice in Mr. McKeen’s court, the robber tells judge McKeen that his plan all along was to return the money to the bank. He is in negotiations with his confederates and feels certain that they will allow the return. His wife also has urged him to return the ill gotten gains. And he loves his wife, dearly. Judge McKeen rules that the arrest is stupid. True, the robber broke the law, but any ninny should understand that the law will be unbroken once the money is returned and, really, who expects judges to tell repentant bank robbers what to do? They can’t. They just can’t.

The spokesperson for the bank robber assures the media that the man’s negotiations with his confederates will in time be successful, at which point the charges against his boss will be mooted.

What’s to worry?

So, the governor and Democratic legislative leaders produced an unconstitutional budget that has a hole in it big enough to float a battleship and a half dozen submarines.

So what?

On the labor front, it is by no means certain that state worker union negotiators will agree to give backs amounting to about $20,000 per pay check. But Mr. Malloy has a pistol – Budget B – pressed to the temple of the negotiators. The governor has given union chieftains a few extra days to submit to Budget A, or else.

One uber-liberal, writing in the Hartford Advocate, has asserted that the budget demands presented to union leaders were all along a false front: Mr. Malloy wants to slash spending and then, Nero like, wash his hands of blame. It was the guy at the other end of the pistol’s barrel who was obstreperous.

And so the state stumbles forward into a brave new world in which massive tax increases will be permanent and union givebacks temporary.

The latest bad news is a survey in Chief Executive Magazine of 55 business leaders showing Connecticut, once a business powerhouse, limping along in 44th place in a listing of best states in which to do business.

But really – so what? Who expects anyone to do anything about it? They can’t. They just can’t.

Connecticut’s Bluer than Blue Media: An Inquest

Robert Thorson is a professor of geology at the University of Connecticut's Liberal Arts and Sciences and a member of The Hartford Courant's Place Board of Contributors. His columns appear frequently on the paper’s op-ed pages.

The Liberal Arts at UConn are, as elsewhere in academia, very liberal.

Mr. Thorson is certain he knows how the rest of us will know when gas prices are “high enough.”

The attentive reader will notice that Mr. Thorson did not write “too high” but used the formulation “high enough.” That is because Mr. Thorson ardently believes that gas prices in Connecticut, now cresting above $4 and heading towards $5, are not as high as they should be.

The price of gas will be high enough, Mr. Thorson advised in a column published on May 5, 2011, when:
“… drive-through lanes at fast-food restaurants and doughnut shops would not be lined with mostly oversized vehicles carrying mostly oversized people toward food energy.

“…the carpool lanes on local interstates would not be nearly empty when the other lanes are at or beyond capacity with solo drivers.

“…the school buses in the suburbs and countryside would not be running so much below capacity, with parents following the same route a few minutes later in their cars.

“… the amount of energy burned for sports entertainment would not be so extravagant at all levels.

“… the boondoggle of business travel to resort destinations such as Hawaii and Las Vegas would end because the cost of getting there would be too high."
Mr. Thorson wants us to know that choices he rejects do not arouse his opposition because they are personal. Like most other red blooded Americans, Mr. Thorson favors personal choices. He is opposed to “government policies that create the energy economy within which we make our individual choices, an economy that still encourages nearly bottomless demand for fossil fuels.”

If governmental policies were different, personal choices would be different. The personal choices we make are framed by government policies that have aroused Mr. Thorton’s ardent opposition. Mr. Thorton favors a frame change that would radically reshape our free choices. Mr. Thorton describes with approval the changes that would occur inside the frame if both national and state government were to pursue different policies:

“America would not burn in a single morning the entire volume of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon disaster a year ago.

“…more than a dribble of federal dollars would be spent for research and development on new energy technologies.

“…private oil companies would not be getting million-dollar subsidies from the federal government during years of record high profits.

“… you would not have to travel major interstates with an endless series of tractor-trailers carrying goods alongside rusting railroad tracks that parallel abandoned canals.

“…Mass transit would be the default choice for most sectors of society; the income disparities regarding the price of fuel for private transportation would be ironed out.”
And, most importantly, the wounds suffered by Mother Earth would finally be healed in Mr. Thorton’s vision of a new society brought about by the policy changes he recommends: “… the income disparities regarding the price of fuel for private transportation would be ironed out; planet Earth would not be experiencing many of its present environmental problems; and the looming prospect of climate change would be less ominous.”

In closing, Mr. Thornton invites those of his readers who cannot appreciate the true value of high gas prices to “Go ahead. Get angry with me. It won't change the price at the pump.”

Without disputing the points make by Mr. Thornton in his march towards an ecological utopia, some of which have been hotly contested elsewhere, it is safe to say that Mr. Thornton is a bluer shade of blue than most political “moderates” in Connecticut are used to. Using a word much misused by U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, some moderates might consider Mr. Thornton's policy prescriptions a tad extreme.

The principle pillar of Mr. Thornton’s column is that the tax structure should be used by government as a punitive devise to discourage the production and use of fossil fuel.

The regressive gas tax in Connecticut is nearly the highest in the nation. Gas prices at the pump could be reduced, and the economic pain felt especially by those in the state who are not well off would be considerably relieved. But Mr. Thornton’s Manichean view of the world – oil bad; clean forms of energy, with the exception of nuclear power, good – will not allow him to stake out a moderate position. The car is his enemy, public transportation his friend. And Mr. Thornton is unmoved that the friends of his enemy need gas reliant cars to get to work in the morning or occasionally may want to visit, if they are not too pressed by punitive, ecologically friendly taxes, a McDonald’s pit stop. Mr. Thornton does not give a hoot that those who work at McDonald’s, for the most part lower income people with their foot on the first rung of the latter of success, may be put out of a job should the state of Connecticut raise gas taxes to an level he considers high enough to effect his utopian vision of a world in which highways carry mostly buses, HOV lanes are full and oil resources -- which have not been sucked dry, particularly here in the United States -- remain untapped.

Mr. Thornton implausibly argues in his op-ed piece that a) he is in favor of personal choice, but b) any available choice should be crafted by a solicitous government in such as way as to eliminate the range of choices available to the persons who choose. If my personal choice runs to, say, dark chocolate cake for dessert, and Mr. Thornton, hand in glove with government bureaucrats, arranges to impose a tax on chocolate that severely restricts the availability of my chosen desert by increasing its cost so that it becomes in effect unaffordable for anyone but so called “millionaires,” in what sense may it be said that Mr. Thornton favors my personal freedom of choice?

Rick Green Advises Republicans To Become More Blue

In a piece written on May 5 by Courant commentator Rick Green, proprietor of a Courant blog called “CTConfidential: What’s really Happening," Mr. Green asserts that the Connecticut Republican Party would be suicidal to follow the lead of conservatives elsewhere in the nation who delivered the U.S. House of Representatives and several state houses to the GOP.

A move to the right in Connecticut would, Mr. Green warns, drive the Republican Party right off a cliff:
“There's little evidence that Connecticut's vast middle of moderate-thinking unaffiliated voters are ready to embrace the sort of anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, Planned Parenthood-bashing message that plays well in Texas.

“But that's the modus operandi of a new group founded by Jack Fowler, publisher of the conservative National Review. Fowler, who lives in Milford, sees great hope in the General Assembly victories last fall of fiscal and social conservatives Joe Markley and Len Suzio.”

Mr. Green’s chief objection to Mr. Fowler and Tom Scott is that both, recent founders of The Roger Sherman Liberty Center, seem to be unwilling to toss social conservatives “right off a cliff.” Conservative advocates, Mr. Scott and Mr. Fowler persist in foolishly supporting such disturbers of the peace as Peter Wolfgang, the Executive Director of The Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC)), who does not consider abortion, gay marriage and transgender rights to be normative, desirable or politically useful for moderate Republicans.

Connecticut’s very blue legislature recently has passed or is considering the passage of bills that would abolish the state’s death penalty, fold transgenders into legislation that prohibits discrimination against disabled Connecticut citizens, and grants to gays marriage rights pressed upon the General Assembly by a Supreme Court that decided the issue in a case in which then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal pointedly did not choose to defend the state against the judicial imposition by stressing a connection between normative male-female marriage and child birth.

Mr. Green, who changed his party affiliation some time ago from Independent to Republican,” considers these and other matters to be “social issues” and, freshly arrived as a Republican Party journalistic consultant, he councils the state GOP to avoid such divisive issues if the party wishes to elect Republicans to office. Once in the long ago, moderate Republican giants strode Connecticut’s earth. Mr. Green calls the roll: Nancy Johnson, Chris Shays and Rob Simmons, all former U.S. House Representatives. He fails to mention Lowell Weicker, for many years a “moderate” though somewhat abrasive Republican.

Now, if in the interest of fair commentary the Courant were to open its pages to conservatives -- perhaps even courageously venturing to hire a few in order balance the consistent leftward tilt of its editorial pages -- those commentators might wish to dispute several of Mr. Green’s assertions and assumption, even at the risk of falling off a cliff.

The conservative point of view would not fail to note that all the Republican “moderates” mentioned by Mr. Green have been turned out of office, sadly having been replaced by Democrats who are considerably less moderate.

Moderation in Connecticut, like love, is largely in the eye of the beholder. The Courant’s ambition is to make sure that the preponderance of the beholders who write within its pages are, like Mr. Green, reliable liberals. Mr. Green can mention only two conservative politicians in the General Assembly, both of whom are recent arrivals, which suggest that conservative politics in Connecticut, far from being tried and found wanting, has not been tried at all.

Mr. Shays, in fact, was the very last Republican “moderate” – though some considered him a liberal on what Mr. Green perceives to be social issues – in all of New England. The species “moderate New England Republican” is, to put it in ecological jargon, now as extinct as the wooly mammoth.

Never-the-less, Mr. Green wishes to breathe some life into these dead dry bones, but Mr. Fowler, Mr. Scott and the sort of people with whom Mr. Green would never choose to break liberal bread are standing Mr. Green’s way and must be bowled over, if only rhetorically.

The sharp division of the political sphere into social conservatives and economic conservatives, while it may be convenient for liberal rhetoricians, is highly misleading, because in the real world, outside the fevered imaginations of utopians who wish to make it over, the two spheres leech into each other, even in that part of it in which liberals like Mr. Green attack social conservatives with rhetorical weapons forged in the smithy of social liberalism. Abortion on demand and what is now being called in Connecticut transgender rights, both urged by liberals, surely falls within the precincts of the so called social doctrine Mr. Green finds repugnant. In what sense is the struggle to make abortion more available not both a social and an economic issue?

Relatively speaking, abortion is the new kid on the block. Some of the oldest prohibitions affecting abortion were promulgated by the early Christian church in response to the widespread use of abortion in the Roman period. In that time, the paterfamilias, the Roman father of the family, enjoyed – if that is the word for it – life and death powers over children, born and unborn. Unwanted children, often females, were either aborted or exposed until they died. A similar situation may be observed today in China where the state, which regulates birth, determines precisely how many children will be born into each family.

Now, we can all agree to disagree on the utility and humaneness of abortion; some very late term abortions were repugnant enough to cause Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a respectable liberal, to characterize partial birth abortion as a form of infanticide of a kind once practiced by the Roman paterfamilias. But the question of abortion’s relatively recent arrival on the scene is not arguable. Laws prohibiting abortion are older by several centuries than the changes in the law – here in the United States mostly by judicial fiat – that allowed abortion, from which we may conclude that abortion, now legally permitted pretty much every stage of pregnancy, is the new normal. If Connecticut’s Democratic dominated General Assembly is successful in clothing transgenders with the same statutory protections it affords to, say, the blind, in time these statutory affirmations will become the new normal.

Mr. Green is free to marshal his arguments in favor of abortion at every stage of pregnancy or transgender rights or the abolition of the death penalty or any other issue he chooses to champion in his columns and blogs. We are still a free country, sort of. But when Mr. Green says that conservatives who uphold the traditional view of the family against those who would change it have ruptured tradition, he should be vigorously challenged on the point. Opposition to abortion certainly is less extreme than partial birth abortion if for no other reason than that it does not involve the destruction of life.

Mr. Fowler is the publisher of National Review, the magazine founded by Bill Buckley, who was a conservative and a close friend of Mr. Moynihan. It is true the magazine is not unattached to economic or political theory: Bill Buckley described himself as being somewhat addicted to ordered thought. But political philosophy alone does not an extremist make.

Both Mr. Fowler and Mr. Scott are comfortable with traditional views of marriage, religious precepts and the economic ideas of Ludwig Von Mises and Fredrick Hayek, the author, among other books, of “The Constitution of Liberty.” Mr. Hayek, Mr. Von Mises, Mr. Scott, Mr. Fowler, Mr. Wolfgang – whom Mr. Green attempted unsuccessfully to “friend” on Facebook – would all of them resist the notion that social conservativism and its opposite, social liberalism, do not impinge on economic matters.

One hopes Mr. Green would agree on the point.

Abortion, which Mr. Green considers a social issue, was instituted in China principally for economic reasons: Fewer people, if they are productive, allow higher salaries and a more manageable population. Once a government is able to manage what one might call the social DNA of a society, it will be able to bend and twist the economic fabric to its liking. Under a totalitarian socialist dispensation, less is more. Constitutions are unknown in China, and organized faiths are ruthlessly abolished. The assault on women in China through abortion, rarely noticed here in the United States, is an essential part of China’s new fascism. Birth rates have a direct and profound impact on the economy. In some sense, nearly every social issue is an economic issue as well, and the reverse is also true: The social thigh bone is connected to the economic hip bone. Conservatives are those who perceive connections that liberals, for tendentious political reasons, prefer to ignore.

Virtually all the nations in Europe that gave birth to Western civilization are now incapable of sustaining their populations because birth rates in Britain, France, Italy – that’s where the Vatican is – Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands have dipped below the replacement figure necessary to sustain population growth. The United States shortly will join the group. Is the disappearance of Western civilization through birth attrition a social problem or an economic problem? Is it reasonable to suppose that people who wish pass on their culture to a future generation should not concern themselves with low birth rates or the deteriorating financial and social condition of the traditional family unit – mom, dad and two and a half kids?

In a commentary published in the Chicago Tribune, not a conservative media outlet, an author of indeterminate ideology, managed to smuggle into his piece the following statistic: “According to the Census Bureau, the rate of abortions in 2006 among black women was 50 per 1,000, compared with 14 for white women and 22 for "other" women.”

Surely Mr. Green will agree that this is an astonishing figure. It is not a conservative figure, it is not a liberal figure, it is merely a true figure.

In days gone by, a robust African American demagogue -- I use the word here in its positive sense -- such as Malcolm X might easily have deployed that figure to show that abortion has become one of the most successful instruments in the tool box of new white racists. But this is not a whisper one is likely to hear from the progeny of those brave few who marched on Selma with Martin Luther King to kill Jim Crow. Jesse Jackson, the liberal preacher politician, used to warn African Americans that abortion has its dark side, but he has since reformed. Mr. Jackson is more placid now, more manageable. Faced with figures of this kind, the silence of the leftist lambs is simply shattering.

In poor inner cities, the traditional family structure has all but disappeared. Is poverty among African Americans in inner cities related in any way to the kind of social structure one is more likely to find among wealthy brats in Hollywood or supremely wealthy but stressed commodities traders in blue chip Connecticut: out of wedlock children, multiple marriages and multiple divorces, a high incidence of drug use, narcissistic fixations. African American fathers in poor inner cities have all but disappeared which, come to think of it, is one of the reasons why the inner cities are poor, flooded with gangs and lawless young men. Is this a social phenomena or an economic one?

When Mr. Wolfgang defends the sanctity of marriage in the same tones that Sam Adams once defended the sanctity of natural rights, is he making a religious point, an economic point or a sociological point?

When Martha Dean, whom Mr. Green in an uncharitable lapse of judgment compared to a cyborg, says that the state and federal strictures embodied in constitutions really should CONSTRICT the authoritarian hand of those who govern us, is she making a sociological point, a constitutional point, a religious point or an economic point? Dean, whose manners are exquisite but whose crap tolerance level is refreshingly low, would say -- and indeed she has said it in nearly all her pronouncements -- that the human being is indivisible; that religious rights, constitutional rights and human rights all hang together in the sanctity of personhood.

Among some people on the left the indivisibility of the person is a doctrine that must fall on deaf ears: The doctrine is incompatible with a rigid statism. Leftists know that if they can persuade others, as they have persuaded themselves, that this doctrine is the special preserve of a despicable interest group, they can more easily dispense with it and get along with producing a brave new world from the rubble they have made of an old world in which first things – the family, organized religion, constitutional rights and the sanctity of the individual – have been relegated to the dust bin of history.

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